Wandering Into Wisdom

This blog chronicles the knowledge, insight and wisdom I encounter every day as a leadership consultant, executive coach, educator, father, friend and citizen. This site is dedicated to my father, Louis (Jack) Laughlin, who passed on to me an appreciation for wisdom. A special thanks to my friend Isaac Cheifetz, a businessman and journalist, who helped me understand the value of blogs and encouraged me to write one.

The Cure*

The recent outbreak of swine flu reminds us that western medicine can diagnose a lot more than it can cure. Here are the elements of our medical knowledge in descending order.


Half Truths*

“A half truth is a whole lie.” My Fourteen Year Old Son

Practice Under Pressure*

My golf instructor showed me a drill that involves putting ten in a row from four feet away. I was surprised when he told me the purpose of the drill was to teach me to putt under pressure. Once I was within a couple of putts of achieving the goal, sick and tired of failing in earlier attempts, I would learn to putt when I desperately wanted to make it. Over the next few weeks my putting improved dramatically. I realized that I had been simulating the physical conditions but not the psychological conditions of putting during an actual round. It made me reconsider how to practice, and teach, a lot of other things.

Just By Accident*

It’s surprising how many discoveries are made completely by accident. Antibiotics were discovered when a scientist noticed that the penicillin mold contaminating his Petri dishes killed the bacteria around it. Discovery is just as much about seeing the possibilities of unexpected phenomena as it is methodical research.


Two thoughts arise from various conversations I’ve had lately. An almost certain way to make a statement false is to make it absolute and evil is often done by people absolutely certain they're right.

My Left Foot*

I struggled to learn to water ski on a single ski. No amount of advice and instruction seemed to make any difference. Then one day the new ski instructor shoved me from behind. When I turned around to tell him to knock it off he pointed to my feet and said, “You’re left footed.” It turns out that I had caught myself with my left foot rather than my right meaning that, although I’m right handed, I’m left foot dominate. I put my left foot forward and rose out of the water on the first try. It’s amazing what a little expert diagnosis can do.

The Good Life*

In France full time employees are guaranteed 5 weeks of vacation and a maximum work week of 35 hours by law. The French turned the increased productivity provided by modern technology into more leisure time. On the other hand, Americans continue to work long hours and turned the increased productivity into higher incomes and increased purchasing power. One wonders who has the better deal.

Suffering Pleasure*

I’m reading a book by the Dalai Lama on Buddhism. Although some of the concepts are painfully complicated I’ve begun to grasp the basic principles. One is how pleasure leads to suffering, or away from happiness. Pleasurable experiences result in suffering because they lead to increased desires, cravings, frustration and even withdrawal. Makes sense. Just ask any addict.

Why Are You Here*

I knew an executive who used the following framework to handle day to day interactions with peers and subordinates. “Everyone who walks in my office needs either permission, help or to simply tell me something. Knowing which at the beginning of a conversation saves a lot of time and confusion."

Kids Need*

Three things we should never ration to kids.



To trust someone they must have both good intentions and adequate competence.

How to Listen*

The guest interviewed at our Rotary Leadership Academy posed a question he uses to improve the effectiveness of his communication. “Are you listening to respond or understand?”


It is the nature of a bridge to touch both sides of an expanse and never be completely supported by either. This is also the reality of leaders who engage in diplomacy.

What's Your Answer*

Many leaders struggle to respond carefully rather than simply react to situations even when they do not require immediate action. A careful response allows time to understand your initial reaction, clarify the situation and consider the impact of your response on others.

Clear and Simple*

I know someone who was invited to watch a Space Shuttle crew in the simulator. He tells about an interaction that demonstrated how clearly and simply people can communicate to manage a situation.

Captain – Do you see the problem?
Pilot – Yes
Captain – Do you have a plan?
Pilot – Yes
Captain – Are you ahead or behind?
Pilot - Ahead

Wanna Help*

I was talking with someone who found the secret to dealing with a critical colleague. It turns out that her colleague complains because she doesn’t feel empowered to make changes. It’s as simple as asking her to help fix the problem and she’s on it like a dog on a steak.

Face to Face*

There’s an ongoing debate about the impact of social media on relationships. During a report at our church business meeting by our youth group about a regional youth retreat one of the adults asked how many of the kids from the other churches they knew. The girl said, "All of them." She must have noticed the quizzical looks from the other adults because she quickly followed up with, “We met them all on Facebook before the retreat." Sounds good me.

I Don’t Win*

While playing gin rummy with my daughter I noticed she had the chance to win but chose not to play the winning card. Assuming she had missed the play I told her she could have won. She smiled and said, “I know but I wanted to keep playing with you.” My kids constantly help me to see what’s really important.